Keens versus Chacos

April 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

My roommate in college told me once about how traumatic it was for her to switch high schools her Sophomore year. She went to an ‘Abercrombie school’ where all the cool kids kept up with the latest A&F catalogs,  and tragically her new school was ‘Hollister school’ where they not only thought that Hollister was better – noobs – but actually judged her for wearing Abercrombie.

“I mean HOLLISTER? Total knock-offs.”

Right? Like, totally.

There’s a certain breed of outdoor enthusiast that has brand loyalty to their shoes that’s kind of like. Or like people who are into sports teams. And why wouldn’t they? The average sports fan is affiliated to their team only through living in the same city. The average hiker has bled, sweat, and probably been chased by bears in their hiking sandals.

Once you’ve got a pair, they’re hard to abandon. Since both brands have a high level of versatility and quality, most folks don’t feel the need to switch brands when they’re up for a new pair. Ultimately, it depends on what you’re looking for, but here’s my best attempt at a fair comparison.

Keens in YellowstoneChacos in Yosemite

Keens v. Chacos

*For the record, I went from Keens to Chacos to Vibrams.



Stinky real fast, like  elephant gooch as my friend Dallas would say. especially once wet.
Fine. Stinky as fast as normal shoes get stinky.


Great toe protection, covers ’em up nice. Good for chronic stumblers.
Leaves them to the elements, unless you count the big toe strap on some styles.


No complaints.

Most of the straps adjust– initially this made me constantly wonder whether I had maximized my shoe comfort or not and thus I was constantly fidgeting with them.
Snow (If for some reason you find yourself in snow while wearing sandles, which I apparently do often enough to comment on)
Material more covering than chacos so good for slippin’ n’ slidin’, but snow gets jammed in toes and under your arches.
Easier to get snow out from arches with these shoes, but no good for skiing down snowy paths with.
Tan lines
Speed racer tan lines
Zorro tan lines
Light on land, but hefty in water
Kind of heavy on land and water


Bigger rocks can get stuck under your arches/in toe-space

Smaller rocks can

get stuck under your arches. Slightly better than keens on this.


Experienced none

Happens after 5+ hours of hiking. Maybe my feet just get fat. Just sayin’.


Dry decently fast. More material means a bit more drag when swimming.
Dry really fast, feel heavy when swimming but not a lot of drag.


3 years, one pair. Hiked things, caved, swam, etc. Biked across the CA in them. Melted the plastic fastener drying them near a fire. Wore down the heel/treads.
2 years, one pair. Hiked things, caved, swam, etc. No noticeable wear or tear thus far – hearty fuckin’ shoe.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for April, 2011 at An Amateur Outside.